Debate erupted during the open-floor portion of last night’s Student Government Board meeting… Debate erupted during the open-floor portion of last night’s Student Government Board meeting and lasted more than 20 minutes after the meeting adjourned, as students vented frustration about the allocations process.
Anger with the allocations process has brewed since the 2011 Board was inaugurated early this year. The state of discontent peaked Tuesday after the African Students Organization’s request for $10,360 was partially denied.
The allocations manual and Board precedent usually determine the outcome of a request, but the subtleties of the process remain murky for many student leaders, who blamed part of the confusion on inconsistent applications of precedence.
Board president Molly Stieber followed up on campaign promises to address these issues by holding two Allocations 101 sessions, open to all Pitt students, a little less than a month ago. These sessions outlined the ins and outs of allocations requests.
But during last night’s meeting, there was not only confusion, but general animosity toward how the allocations rules have been applied.
In the second request of the night, the Athletic Training Student Association was denied nearly $2,000 to attend a conference.
Both the Allocations Committee and Board member Matt Riehle said that because “personal networking” was on the agenda, the committee could not approve the request — a decision based on precedent.
Riehle spoke after to provide “clarity” regarding the decision of the Board.
“It’s just too much of an individualized cost for the Board to approve,” he said.
In the last request of the night, Fatima Muhammed-Ighile of the African Students Organization complained about the difficulties involved with the room-reservation system at Pitt. Muhammed-Ighile began searching for a room last November, but couldn’t find an available one that would satisfy the requirements of the event. She was then forced to look off-campus for space to hold a program.
Allocations Chair Mike Bane said after the meeting that the biggest problem he has seen this year was with room reservations and that the Board has been experiencing problems as well.
“Even Allocations 101 was moved,” he said.
Muhammed-Ighile said her group needs space to hold 300 to 350 students for a fashion show and traditional African dance. She settled on the ballroom in the Soliders & Sailors Memorial Hall, which cost several thousand dollars to rent.
While the Board amended the request to fund for a performer, they did not approve the funds needed for the location, leaving the organization with six fashion designers and no place to have the event.
Stieber said that a non-formula group has never been funded for a facility like that and feared setting a precedent that would force the Board to fund for facilities if other organizations were to ask.
When Stieber opened the meeting up to comments from the floor, James Weaver, the president of the Rainbow Alliance, encouraged the Board to see the precedent explanations from the students’ point of view.
“Pitt’s reservation system sucks,” Weaver said. “It really needs to be overhauled.”
When the Board refuses funding for events that have been funded in previous years, it violates the theory of precedent, Weaver said.
He said that if the Board goes against precedent to deny funding, then it should be able to go against precedent to approve it, especially in Muhammed-Ighile’s case since she clearly took all necessary steps to find a room.
Eric Eghan then stood up and claimed the Board made a “heart-breaking decision.”
“How are they suppose to do their event without a space?” Eghan said.
Riehle tried to placate the groups, saying that the Board has a limited amount of funding and it tries to dole it out in the best way possible.
The Board has the power to allocate the Student Activities Fund — around $2.3 million — to certified student organizations. Only about $1.1 million of the fund is left for non-formula organizations after formula groups like WPTS, Pitt Program Council and Panther Prints get their share.
The fund is replenished by the $80 fee non-CGS students pay each semester.
The Men’s Ultimate Frisbee Club requested $2,426.30 for a tournament. The Board approved the request in full.
The Athletic Training Student Association requested $1,996 for a conference. The Board denied the request.
Brazil Nuts requested $3,419.15 for an on-campus program. The Board approved $1,569.75 and denied $1,849.40.
The Chabad House requested $550 for a speaker. The Board approved the request in full.
Students for Justice in Palestine requested $1,318 for a film festival. The Board approved $633 and denied $685.
The African Students Organization requested $10,360 for a program. The Board approved $3,714.60 and denied $6,645.
The Black Action Society requested a budget modification for the $14,902.81 they were already allocated. The Board approved $14,902.81 and denied $100.